Challenges aplenty for anchoring

And what other rule change might be more pressing?

Updated: November 28, 2012, 3:46 PM ET
ESPN.com

Some of the biggest names in golf, including three of the past five major championship winners, will have to start thinking about changing their putter/putting style now that the USGA and R&A have banned the anchoring of the flatstick.

So who might this impact the most? And what else could golf's governing bodies focus on that needs some fixing? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special edition of Four-Ball.


1. What will be the biggest challenge for PGA Tour players who switch back to a conventional putter?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: How much to put toward the lawsuit. Collectively there will be a lawsuit filed or there will be a loophole (remember the Ping wedge Phil used?). But unlike the groove loophole, this change affects only a few golfers who should fight fiercely.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: For the players who have won on tour with the anchoring technique, they won't feel confident until they win with a conventional putter. Nothing helps confidence like winning.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It might simply be committing to the change as quickly as possible. They still have three years before the rule goes on the books. That means they can use an anchored stroke for the next three years. Do you commit to a conventional stroke immediately? Or do you slowly work your way back to it?

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: The mental aspect of "going back" will weigh greatly on some players' minds. Golf is a streaky game and putting might be the streakiest aspect of the sport. So if a guy felt he needed to anchor the putter to give him a better chance to compete week in and week out, when he loses that crutch, how is he going to respond? It might not end guys' careers, but it could certainly hit them where it hurts most: the wallet.


2. With this rule being changed, what other rule in golf most needs to be tweaked?

Michael Collins: Let me get this straight ... I hit the ball where you told me to (the fairway), but I can't declare the divot my ball stopped in as "ground under repair" even though you are going to fix it tonight when we're done playing? If it's not ground under repair, then you shouldn't be allowed to replace/refill divots once they're made.

Farrell Evans: Divots in the fairway should be treated as ground under repair. I can't think of worse luck on a golf course than to hit a perfect drive that finds a divot. Rule 13-1, which states that "the ball must be played as it lies, except as otherwise provided in the Rules," should have a proviso for divots. The late Payne Stewart would be the first to applaud this ruling. A sand-filled divot in the 12th fairway at the Olympic Club during the final round of the 1998 U.S. Open helped sink his chances of winning his second Open.

Bob Harig: The stroke and distance penalty for hitting a shot out of bounds. Why is out of bounds not treated like a lateral hazard? Not only would it speed up play -- a player would not have to go back to his original spot to hit again -- but it simply seems more fair. There is less of a penalty (none) for swinging and missing than there is for hitting a shot 300 yards that trickles an inch out of bounds.

Kevin Maguire: First off, let's identify one of the biggest issues facing golf these days: slow play. And how do we speed up play at the local munis all over the country? Speed up play on the PGA Tour, because the weekend hackers (like myself) often emulate what they see on TV every week. The simplest way to do that is to allow range finders on the PGA Tour during tournament rounds. That one rule change would shorten rounds nearly immediately.


3. Which PGA Tour pro do you think this will impact the most and why?

Michael Collins: On the Champions Tour, Bernhard Langer might be on suicide watch because he knows he'll never win again. On the PGA Tour, Webb Simpson will be applying to Wake Forrest's masters and doctorate programs. He'll be out of golf by 2020 (he's got exempt status almost until then).

Farrell Evans: Keegan Bradley. He is already a bit of a head case, a good guy, but a longtime anchorer who won't easily become successful using a new method.

Bob Harig: Tim Clark. He has spoken openly about how he believes this could be the end of his career. Clark has a physical condition with his wrists that makes conventional putting difficult. He's used a belly or long putter for most of his professional career. It would be a tough change, although perhaps he might find some relief under the Americans With Disabilities Act because he was born with the condition.

Kevin Maguire: Adam Scott. The Aussie struggled with his game on the greens before going to the belly putter and then seemed to resurrect his career. He nearly won the Open Championship in July until he was bested by another of the belly-putter brethren, Ernie Els. Scott has readily admitted the long wand gives him a confidence he didn't have with the shorter flatstick.


4. What, if any, is a more pressing issue for the governing bodies?

Michael Collins: The 600-pound pink gorilla in the room is the golf ball. Both sides -- the USGA/R&A and golf manufacturers -- are scared to touch that issue. So instead, they better focus on growing the game. Golf is still an exclusionary game for the most part, and there are many who'd like to keep it that way. But the healthiest sports are the most diverse.

Farrell Evans: The governing bodies are always watching the technology barons. It's always going to be very important to make sure the equipment companies have someone help them self-police in a hypercompetitive environment in which new innovations drive the demand for sales.

Bob Harig: The golf ball. For elite players, it simply travels too far. It has led to lengthening of courses and finding some obsolete for the best in the world. Changes to courses are expensive -- and don't necessarily help the average player. Wouldn't it simply be more effective to dial back how far the golf ball flies?

Kevin Maguire: Opponents of the anchoring ban with belly putters argue that if the USGA and the R&A really wanted to make a difference, they wouldn't worry about putters or even square grooves, which they tackled a few years ago. The real change to the sport needs to happen with rolling back the specs on drivers and golf balls. The technological changes in the past two decades dramatically altered the landscape of the game. In 2012, 21 PGA Tour pros averaged more than 300 yards. Just 10 years ago, only one person (John Daly) broke that barrier, and 20 years ago, no one eclipsed even 285 yards on average. Want to deal with a truly pressing issue? Try fixing the golf balls and drivers that are making the most classic courses become obsolete.